What is Acupuncture?
According to the Acupuncture State Board of California, pursuant to section 4927 (e) of the Business and Professions Code, acupuncture means the stimulation of a certain point or points on or near the surface of the body by the insertion of needles to prevent or modify the perception of pain, or to normalize physiological functions, including pain control, for the treatment of certain diseases or dysfunctions of the body, including the techniques of electro acupuncture, cupping, and moxibustion.
The practice of acupuncture, according to Business and Professions Code section 4937 (b), is to perform or prescribe the use of oriental massage, acupressure, breathing techniques, exercise, or nutrition, including the incorporation of drugless substances and herbs as dietary supplements to promote health.
What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?
The restoration of harmony is integral to Chinese herbal medicine. Harmonious balance is expressed in terms of the two complementary forces-yin and yang, and the five elements: fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. The five elements are of particular importance to the Chinese herbalist; they give rise to the five tastes by which all medicinal plants are evaluated. Fire gives rise to bitterness, earth to sweetness, metal to acridity, water to saltiness, and wood to sourness. Each taste is said to have a particular medicinal action; bitter-tasting herbs drain and dry; sweet herbs tonify and may reduce pain, acrid herbs disperse; salty herbs nourish the kidneys; sour herbs nourish the yin and astringe, preventing unwanted loss of body fluids or qi. Herbs that have none of these tastes are described as bland, a quality that indicates that the plant may have a diuretic effect. The taste of a plant can also indicate the organ to which it has a natural affinity. Besides defining particular herbal tastes, the Chinese ascribe different temperatures to herbs: hot, warm, neutral, cool, and cold. Each individual herb has different properties such as taste and temperature, and enters different organs in the body. When the herbs are combined, through mutual harmony, the treatment effect is increased and the side effects reduced. A usual prescription or formula can consist of multiple herbs.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
The “vital energy” in humans is believed to flow along meridians that have their root in the internal organs. On the surface of the twelve main meridian pathways are up to 365 main acupuncture points where needles are inserted to restore the proper balance of energy. The acupoints within the meridian system can be stimulated to enhance the flow of qi. When acupuncture needles are inserted into these acupoints, not just under the skin, they help correct and rebalance the flow of energy, consequently relieving pain and/or restoring health. These acupoints are grouped along specific pathways or meridians that cross the body. The flow of energy through these pathways helps to maintain good health. When the flow of energy is blocked for any reason such as injury, strain, improper diet or stress, there is disruption of health, resulting in pain and illness. By stimulating appropriate acupuncture points along the affected meridians, the energy is released and regulated, and health may be restored.
Acupuncture can play a vital role as an adjunctive therapy due to how effective the meridian system is as a means of proper diagnosis. Because the meridians influence every cell in the body and pass through every organ and organ system, acupuncture provides health practitioners with an accurate means of determining health deficiencies, as well as a method of reestablishing balance.
According to modern research, studies indicate that acupuncture influences the central and peripheral nervous system. Experience shows it can be particularly effective in pain control. Among a host of factors, acupuncture affects sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in the blood, the functioning of the gastrointestinal system, and the activity of the endocrine system. Acupuncture works with the body, harmonizing and balancing energy. It improves circulation, releases endorphins to control pain, and allows the body to heal more quickly and more completely.
The following theories give further explain how acupuncture affects the body:
Conduction of electromagnetic signals: Evidence suggests that acupuncture points are strategic conductors of electromagnetic signals. Stimulating these points enables electromagnetic signals to be relayed at greater-than-normal rates. These signals may start the flow of pain-killing biochemicals, such as endorphins, or release immune system cells to specific body sites.
Activation of the body’s natural opiod system: Considerable research supports the claim that acupuncture releases opiods, synthetic or naturally-occurring chemicals in the brain that may reduce pain or induce sleep. These chemicals may explain acupuncture’s pain-relieving effects.
Stimulation of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland: Joined at the base of the brain, the hypothalamus and pituitary glands are responsible for many body functions. The hypothalamus activates and controls part of the nervous system, the endocrine processes, and many bodily functions, such as sleep, regulation of temperature, and appetite. The pituitary gland supplies some of the body’s needed hormones. Stimulation of these glands can result in a broad spectrum of effects on various body systems.
Change in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones: Studies suggest that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry in a positive way. This is accomplished by changing the release of neurotransmitters (biochemical substances that stimulate or inhibit nerve impulses) and neurohormones (naturally-occurring chemical substances that can change the structure or function, or impact the activity of, a body organ).
What Should You Expect During Treatment?
During examination, an important method of diagnosis we use involves analyzing the pulses of a patient. Six pulses are felt on each wrist, corresponding to the major body organs and functions. Each pulse is located at a specific position on the wrists, and each one is believed to tell the exact state of the different organs or functions. Other diagnostic methods include questioning the patient regarding symptoms and living habits, your sleep, emotional state, digestion, urination, menstruation, sweating, family history, ect; careful observation of the patient¡¯s tongue, facial and body coloring as well as observation of skin texture and temperature distribution on different body areas.
We utilize all your information to make diagnosis based on Chinese Medicine theories of Yin Yang, five elements, meridians and collaterals, internal organs, etiology and pathology.
During treatment, selected points are cleaned with alcohol cotton, and sterilized disposable needles are inserted along the appropriate meridians. Acupuncture needles are of different lengths and gauges, but are generally hair-thin, solid, and made of stainless steel. The part of the body into which the needles are put will often appear to bear no relation to the site of disease or symptoms. The depth of the needle insertion varies, depending on the points being used. Most needles are inserted just below the skin¡¯s surface, but some may go from a depth of a quarter inch to as much as three inches. In most cases the needle insertion can hardly be felt by the patient. Usually there is only a brief sensation as the needle is inserted, and it is rarely painful, just slight heaviness or distention. Once the needles are in place and patients do not move the body position, they generally cannot be felt.
Sometimes an electrical current is used to further enhance the stimulation of the acupuncture points. Individual wires are clipped to two or more of the needles. The acupuncturist adjusts electrical current to the level where the patient is able to feel a slight tingling sensation. The needles may also be manipulated manually in twirling or push-pull movements. Moxibustion can also be used in conjunction with acupuncture. It may consist of rolling a ball of dried herb (mugwort) around the needle¡¯s shaft and lighting it so that the needle is warmed. This has the effect of reinforcing the needle¡¯s action. Another method is to pass a burning moxa stick back and forth over the appropriate body area just close enough to give a comfortable heat. Moxibustion is generally used only for a few minutes and mostly for certain types of physical disorders, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, infertility, as well as preventing diseases and keeping healthy. Another technique is Cupping therapy in which a jar is attached to skin surface to cause local congestion through the negative pressure created by manual force or introducing heat in the form of ignited material. The suction caused by cupping on some acupoints can warm and promote the free flow of qi and blood in meridians so as to diminish pain and swelling. The jar can be made of bamboo, ceramic, glass or plastic, and stays on skin for about 10 minutes. For muscular pain or emotional problems like stress, nervousness manual therapy, and therapeutic massage are added to treatment.
The needles typically stay in place for about half an hour. For some conditions, however, they may be in place for only a few minutes or for up to an hour. Afterwards, removes the needles, and swabs the insertion point with clean cotton. We may use one or all the above techniques to restore the free flow of energy in patients to prevent, and or treat illness, or relieve pain.
Many patients find the treatment very relaxing, which brings on a feeling of well-being. Often patients are surprised at how comfortable they are during treatment and how easily the needles are placed. Some people even go to sleep during treatment. A patient may feel a slight sensation upon entry and then pressure or a “dull” or “surging” reaction when the needle reaches the “qi” or correct point.
What Conditions May Benefit from Acupuncture?
- Asthma/cough AIDS/HIV related conditions Allergies Arthritis
- Back aches Carpal tunnel syndrome Chronic fatigue Chronic pain
- Common cold/flu Constipation Depression Dizziness
- Drug addiction/ Smoking Eye diseases Gallstone
- Gastritis Gynecological disorders Headaches(inc. migraines)
- Heart problems/Palpitations High blood pressure
- Immune system deficiency Impotence Indigestion Infertility
- Insomnia Intestinal problems Irregular menses Knee problems
- Menopausal syndromes Menstrual cramps Multiple Sclerosis
- Neck pain/Stiffness Neuralgia (Trigeminal or intercostal)
- Nervous system problems PMS Paralysis/Numbness Post-operative pain
- Prostate problems Sciatica Sexual dysfunction Shoulder pain
- Sinus problems Skin problems Stomach problems Stress/Tension
- Stroke Tendonitis Ulcers Urinary tract infections
- Vaginitis Vision problems Tennis elbow
Among the above disorders, 40 conditions are listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) that may benefit from acupuncture as the following:
Digestive Abdominal pain Constipation Diarrhea Hyperacidity Indigestion Emotional Anxiety Depression Insomnia Nervousness Neurosis
Eye-Ear-Throat Cataracts Gingivitis Poor vision Tinnitis Toothache Gynecological Infertility Menopausal symptoms Premenstrual symptoms
Musculoskeletal Arthritis Back pain Muscle cramping Muscle pain and weakness Neck pain Sciatica Neurological Headaches Migraines Neurogenic bladder dysfunction Parkinson’s disease Postoperative pain Stroke
Respiratory Asthma Bronchitis Common cold Sinusitis Smoking cessation Tonsillitis Miscellaneous Addiction control Athletic performance Blood pressure regulation Chronic fatigue Immune system tonication Stress reduction
Acupuncture can help remedy many other ailments which have not been listed here.